Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Is the HealthCare.gov Meltdown a Technical Failure ?

What's the root of the HealthCare.gov's poor performance ? Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, writes in Harvard Business Review that,
The underlying truth for virtually every large system’s implementation initiative is that success demands leadership and oversight that holds itself accountable for assuring best practice. Good governance, not superior technical chops or ready access to alpha geeks, is how you build complex systems that deliver reliable and resilient value for money.
Sadly, I agree. I'm confident that the many IT professionals who are responsible for building HealthCare.gov are deeply disappointed in the launch. There is no way to code around confusion, conflict, and weak communication. Michael goes on to note the importance of "governance" -- which is a much more specific term than a generic labeling around "management."
In my work on complex systems procurement (PDF) and participation in project and program reviews, the only variable more important than the quality of the people doing the work was the integrity of the individuals responsible for governance.
It's a good read, and I have my fingers crossed that Jeffrey Zients can step in and apply some old-school skills to this new-tech debacle.